Drifter Chapter 1

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I grew up in a pretty normal family, we went to church every Sunday, my father was a state worker for 23 years and counting and my mother was an elementary school teacher. We weren’t upper class by any means, but we never went without. I might not of had all the newest stuff like the other kids did, most my clothes we got from Goodwill and yard sales but that didn’t bother me to much. I was taught at an early age the value of hard work and saving money. When I was eight years old I started mowing our neighbor Mrs. Lanes yard. It wasn’t a very big yard and only took me about an hour every Saturday morning. After I would finish with her yard I would have to mow ours on a deal I had with my father. The deal was I could use his push mower and he would supply the gas and keep the blade sharp to mow Mrs. Lanes yard for free if I also mowed ours every week. If I chose not to mow ours then I would be charged for the “rental” of his mower which would be five dollars every time I used it. Knowing that I only made ten dollars a week mowing Mrs. Lanes I sure wasn’t about to give up half my profit for “rental fees.” Our yard took about two hours to mow and I didn’t mind it to much because there is something so satisfying about mowing to me. I’m not sure if its the instant results you get in making a shaggy yard look nice and clean cut or what but I enjoyed it. As I got older I started picking up more odd jobs around the neighborhood, white washing a fence, cleaning out flower gardens, picked up a few more yards to mow. By the time I turned 12 I was making around sixty bucks a week except in the winter time. I still made some money by shoveling snow but not nearly what I was making during mowing season. I was very stingy with my money, instead of going out and blowing it on toys and junk like most my friends I saved almost all it in a Mason jar. My goal was to keep saving and buy my first vehicle when I turned sixteen but that never happened.

It was two days before my 15th birthday and my world came crashing down. I was walking home from school and had just turned the block to our street when I saw our house was swarmed by cars. Most of them I knew as members of our family but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why they were at our house on a Thursday afternoon. I walked up to the front porch where my Uncle Lenny and Mrs. Lane were talking and I was about to ask what was going on when Mrs. Lane saw me and broke down crying running up to me wrapping me up into the biggest bear hug I think I ever had. Uncle Lenny walked down the steps and over to me and pried Mrs. Lane away from her embrace.
“Robert I need to talk with you” he said as he put his hand on top my shoulder and walked me away from the house and over to the big walnut tree in the yard.
“I don’t know how to tell you” he said with tears filling in his eyes
“What’s going on Uncle Lenny, wheres mom and dad?”
“Robert they were in a car accident today coming back from the doctors office” more tears falling down his face
I stood there staring at Uncle Lenny my mind shutting down
“Robert they didn’t make it, they were pronounced dead on the scene”
Those final words hit me like a brick and I lost it. I ran into the house, everyone went quiet watching me as I ran into my bedroom and slammed the door falling onto my bed tears running from my eyes. I must have layed there crying for what seemed like hours with different family members walking in to try and talk with me. I didn’t want to talk, I didn’t want to be consoled I just wanted to be left alone. After awhile I ran out of tears and just layed there wonder why this had to happen. No child should have to go thru this, why….why….why was what I kept asking myself. My door opened again and in walked Uncle Lenny with a strange woman that I had never met before.
“Robert this is Lucy and she is from Child Services” Uncle Lenny said.
“She is going to have to have you go with her for a few days til me and Aunt Linda can get all the paperwork in order to have you put into our custody”
I stared at him, hatred building up in me as he finished speaking
“What makes you think that you and Aunt Linda can just stroll in and replace my mom and dad like that!” I yelled
“I don’t want to go anywhere, this is my house and I’m not leaving here to go with anybody!”
“Robert I can understand your pain and confusion, but the laws are clear and we can’t let you stay here by yourself your still a minor” Lucy said trying to sound sympathetic.
“GET OUT OF MY ROOM NOW!” I screamed at both of them loud enough I knew the whole house heard.
“We will leave you alone for a little bit longer to let you wrap your head around this, but its what has to be done Robert” Uncle Lenny said as he ushered Lucy out the door closing it behind him.
I was a total wreck, my mom and dad were gone, I was being forced out of the only house I ever knew to go into Child Services for god only knows how long just to end up at my dead beat uncles house who sit around all day while making my Aunt work and do all the house chores. I’ve even saw her mowing their yard a few times, she said it was because she liked the exercise but I knew better.

I grabbed my backpack and dumped all my school books out and started filling it full of clothes and few small things I had around my room like my flashlight and pocket knife. I grabbed my mason jar with my savings in it off my desk and stuffed it in the middle so it wouldn’t get broke, zipped up my bag and opened my bedroom window. I pushed the screen out trying to be as quite as I could be. Looking back for a moment to my room, knowing I would never see it again I crawled out my window and headed for the tree line that was next to the house. I had no idea where I was going to go but I knew I had to get away from there and fast. I walked şişli escort thru the trees that lead down to the creek that ran thru the middle of town. As I got to the creek I started walking up stream, I had an idea of where I could go for right now and hoped I wouldn’t be found. I walked up the creek bank for about two miles to where the creek ran around a bend with a cliff on one side. I found a shallow place to cross that was only about knee deep. I rolled my jeans up and took my socks and shoes off holding them above the water as I started to wade across. The creek was spring fed and boy was it cold, about 52 degrees this time of year. I made it to the bank of the opposite side and set down in the gravel. Pulling a t-shirt from my bad I dried my feet and legs off so I could put my socks and shoes back on. I had just finished lacing up my shoes when I heard someone calling my name. It was faint but means they had discovered I had run away. I jumped up and started climbing a little trail up the bluff. It wasn’t much of a trail and if you didn’t know there was a trail there you’d walk right past it. The only reason I knew about it was my friend Mike and I kind of made it one day where we were out exploring. We had been up there many times and there wasn’t ever a sign anyone else had climbed it. Mike had moved away two years ago so I knew nobody would think to look up a bluff. About sixty feet up this little trail was a cave back in a little nook of the bluff. You couldn’t see the creek from its entrance so I figured you couldn’t see the entrance from the creek. The cave wasn’t very big, the mouth was about ten foot wide and probably six foot tall then it went into the side of the bluff a good fifteen feet. I crawled in and set my bag down looking around to make sure there wasn’t any unwanted visitors I was joining. Looked like I was alone thank god, last thing I wanted was to move in with a snake or two. I layed down on the rock floor, my head on my pack thinking about the events that transpired today.

I awoke a few hours later noticing it was dark, I must have fell asleep earlier my mind exhausted after the mental anguish it had endured. I sat up listening trying to hear any human noises but all I heard were the tree frogs croaking. My stomach was growling as I hadn’t eaten anything since lunch at school and here it was a good eight hours later I was guessing. I had no idea where I was going to be able to go to find food. The cops are probably looking for me as so is half the town by now. Then it hit me. The Bakers were out of town for a few days and they had a big garden that I had helped weed just a few weeks ago. I emptied my bag onto the cave floor, opening my mason jar and putting my cash into the front pocket of my bag. I descended down the trail which wasn’t easy in the dark. As I got to the bottom I headed down river but still on the opposite side from where I had lived. It was about a three mile walk down stream and then another four blocks over to the Bakers house. I climbed up the creek bank staying as low as I could so no passing cars would be able to see me. It was late and the street was quite. I decided instead of trying to sneak down the street I would take the alley and jump the back fence. I layed there listening for any sound and after a few minutes I decided it was now or never as I jumped up and ran across the road into someones side yard then tried to stay in the shadows as I sneaked my way down to the alley way. The alley was just a little dirt path that the city used to read electric meters and there really wasn’t no place to hide if someone saw me. I walked swiftly but quietly as I counted houses knowing the Bakers house was the third one down. I jumped over the chain link fence and squatted down to make sure I hadn’t drawn any unwanted attention. Everything was still quiet as I walked over to the garden that was some what lit up by street light in front on their house. I looked over the plants and saw quite a few that were ready to be picked and started loading my bag up with tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, squash, radishes and a small watermelon that was ripe. After I had picked the garden clean basically I walked over by the Mr. Bakers shed to the end of the garden hose he had strung out from the house hoping he had left it turned on. I squeezed the trigger for the sprayer but nothing came out. I sit it back down knowing I had to sneak up closer to the house to turn it on. I was about to walk up there when I noticed the shed door was shut but was dummy locked. I’m not a thief atleast I had never been one before now but desperate situations will change you. I took the lock off and slowly opened the door stepping inside. It was pitch black and I knew better than to turn on the light so I grabbed my flashlight that was buried under all the food and turned it on to see if there was anything in there I could use. As I looked around I found I was in luck. I grabbed a box of the big kitchen matches he probably used to start his grill, a Coleman lantern and the bag of extra mantles that were hanging with it. A Coleman camp stove and then found five bottles of gas that would run the stove and lantern. Then I realized I couldn’t carry all that back with me I just had to take what I would really need. I put the five bottles of gas into my bag along with the box of matches and it would barely zip. I knew I could carry the camp stove since it had a carrying handle. I needed a pot to cook in tho and searched around making more noise than I would have liked but finally found a small two quart pot. I used some fishing line I had found and tied it onto my bag using the hole that was in the handle. I walked back out into the yard shutting the shed door behind me and walked over towards the house to turn the water on so I could fill my mason jar with drinking water. I was just about to the house when the yard was lit up by a bright light. I froze, scared I was caught. It took a second for me to realize it was motion activated flood lights and my motion triggered them. I rushed over and turned the water on and rushed back by the shed and to the end of the garden hose that was in the shadows created by lights. I quickly filled up my jar put the lid on tight and stuffed it in my already overfull bag and headed back for the alley. I set the camp stove over the fence and the headed over it myself. I grabbed the stove once I was over and headed back towards the creek. The pot I had tied onto my bag was making a lot of noise and the neighborhood dogs were starting to bark drawing more attention my way as I hurrying down the alley. I had just stepped into the shadows of a big oak tree next to the road when I heard a car coming down the road. I froze not knowing where to hide as I would surly be seen with all this stuff I was carrying. I was about to head back down the alley when the car pulled into a drive way about four houses down. Relived I watched the man get out and walk into the house and I headed across the road and back down the creek bank. Once I was next to the creek I could breathe alittle easier. I walked back to the cliff and acceded back up into my cave.

I emptied my bag to take stock of everything I had stolen. I felt bad for taking stuff that wasn’t mine but my growling stomach let me know it was ok as I picked up a tomato and bit into it. I ate the tomato and used my pocket knife to cut up a cucumber. I washed it all down with a few swigs of water from my jar. The next day I stayed in the cave or by the edge of the cave all day not wanting to chance being spotted by anyone. I still had not a clue where I was going to go. I knew I couldn’t stay here in this cave for a long period of time. I needed more to eat than just veggie. After the third day I was already running low on food and was boiling the creek water to drink. I stunk to high heaven and wanted nothing more than a bath and a big pork chop. I took inventory of everything I had left and knew today had to be the day. I gathered up my clothes, leaving everything else in the cave I walked out and down to the creek. Walking up stream I knew I would come to a county road in two or three miles and I could follow it to the main highway. I had just reached the main highway that runs between our town and the next when I saw an old GMC pickup coming down the road. I flagged him to stop and it was an old timer probably in his mid seventies.
“Was wondering if I could catch a ride over to Summersville” I asked as he eyed me up and down. He was quite for a minute before saying
“You look awful young to be out here bumming rides with strangers kid”
“Sir I have good reasoning I’m just not a liberty to discuss them right now” I said looking him in the eye
“Well I’m sure you do, jump on in and I’ll take you just outside of Summersville. I turn off about a mile outside of town.” he said as I climbed in the passenger seat.
It was a quite ride, neither of us saying anything til we were a couple miles away from his turn off.
“I’ve been thinking kid, you look like you need a good meal and I can smell you need a bath so why don’t I take you to my place and you can get a bath while the misses fixes some vittles.”
I thought for a moment, not knowing if I was going to be tricked and the cops show up while I was taking a bath, and the old timer must have been reading my mind because he said
“Don’t worry I’m not going to pry into your business or call the law on you”
I agreed and a mile later we turned on an old gravel road and a few turns later we were pulling up to a gate. He got out and unlocked the gate as I jumped out to close them behind us. He looked appreciative as he pulled thru the gate and stopped. I shut the gates and locked the lock back and climbed back inside.
“Im Jeb Cook and my wife is Nancy Cook” he said as we were pulling up to the house.
“My name is Robert but everyone calls me Rob” I said kicking myself in the ass for using my real name.
We climbed out of the truck and I was greeted by a huge hound dog that started sniffing me and jumping around all excited that there was a visitor.
“Ginger get down!” Mr. Cook yelled at her as she jumped up on me.
“You have to excuse her, she doesn’t get to many outside visitors, follow me up here to the house and I’ll introduce you to the misses.”
I followed Mr. Cook to the back porch and into the screen door.
“Nancy we have a guest” he said as we walked into the kitchen
Mrs. Cook turned away from the cook stove and looked at me with a confused look on her face before saying
“Hello, my names Nancy and I’m pleased to meet you”
“Thank you Mrs. Cook, my names Robert” I said
Mrs. Cook looked at Mr. Cook with questions in her eyes trying to figure out why I was there most likely.
“I was trying to catch a ride to Summersville and Mr. Cook was nice enough to give me a lift. He then offered me a chance to get cleaned up and some dinner before I leave.” I said
“You are more than welcome here Robert” she said with a smile
“The washroom is right down the hall and I will get a wash cloth and towel set out for you” she said in such a motherly voice that it reminded me of how bad I missed my mother.
“Robert I have some chores to attend to, Nancy will make sure you have everything you need.” Mr. Cook said as he was about to walk back out the screen door.
“Mr. Cook is there anything I can help you with before I get a bath. I feel like I owe you for your generosity and would be more than happy to help you with your chores in order to pay off my debt to you.”
Mr. Cook thought for a moment and said if I really felt that way then it wouldn’t be right for him not to allow me to help him even tho there was no debt I owed in his eyes. I glanced over and saw Mrs. Cook standing in the doorway smiling
“Robert that is so refreshing to hear these days, someone brought you up right” Mrs. Cook said as she headed back towards the stove.
“Yes ma’am someone did” I said as I was trying to hold back tears and that wasn’t lost on Mrs. Cook. I followed Mr. Cook out the door and towards the barn.
“First thing I have to do is feed the cattle, now you can’t help with that they are skittish of new people being around. There is some wood that needs to be carried to the porch for the wood stove, you can start on that if you want to” he said as he climbed on his old Case tractor and started it up. I carried all the wood he had split and stacked it on the porch which was only about six arm loads. By that time Mr. Cook had made it back to the barn and I met him as he was shutting the tractor off.
“Mr. Cook all the wood is carried and stacked on the porch sir” I said as he looked at me in surprise.
“I didn’t think you would carry it all, but thank you for doing so”
“Go ahead and head back to the house to get your bath, supper should be on the table by the time you get out.” he said to me
I walked back to the house with Ginger by my side waiting to get petted. As we got to the porch I reached down and petted her
“Aren’t you such a good girl, I always wanted a dog but my parents wouldn’t let me get one. I have to go wash up girl I’ll play with you later ok.” I said to her as I walked up the steps.
As I walked inside Mrs Cook smiled and “Robert there is a wash cloth and towel laid out on the tub for you”
“Thank you ma’am” I said as I started down the hall
“And Robert thank you for helping with the wood. Jeb isn’t as young as he use to be and any help is greatly appreciated atleast by me.”
I just smiled and walked to the bathroom, closing the door and turning the water on. It felt nice to finally get a bath again with soap. I couldn’t believe how nasty I was I had to drain the water twice. Once I was finished I went to open my bag but it was already unzipped and my clothes were missing. I looked around wondering what I was going to wear when there was a knock on the door.
“Robert, I layed some clothes out side the door here for you to put on. They may be alittle big but yours are in the wash right now.” Mrs. Cook said in that motherly voice
I waited a minute then slowly opened the door and grabbed the clothes that were laying there in a neat pile. I put the shirt on which was loose but not to bad. The jeans on the other hand were about three sizes to big and way way to long. I rolled the pants legs up as far as I could and walked out of the washroom both hands holding the jeans up. As I walked into the dining room Mr and Mrs Cook about died laughing at my predicament.
“Rob having alittle trouble holding your britches up are ya” Mr Cook said with a huge grin on his face
“Oh Jeb quit teasing the boy” Mrs Cook said as she went into another room and came out with a long piece of yarn.
“Here Robert use this as a belt, it might help you alittle bit”
“Thank you ma’am” I said as I took the yarn and started running it thru the belt loops. It worked somewhat I didn’t have to hold them up anymore but occasionally pull them up as they slid down. Mrs. Cook brought a casserole to the table and we all set down. It was the first actual meal I’ve had in almost a week and I ate til I thought I was going to blow up. Mr and Mrs Cook didn’t say anything as they watched me eat. Mrs Cook just smiled and asked if I wanted more every time my plate was empty. After supper I helped Mrs. Cook clean off the table and carry everything back into the kitchen. I walked over to the sink and turned the water on putting the stopper in the bottom and adding alittle dish soap.
“Robert you don’t have to do that” Mrs. Cook said
“Its ok ma’am I don’t mind to help you” I said to which she just smiled and said she’d like that
I washed the dishes and she dried them and put them up. After we were finished she told me to go sit on the porch with Jeb and she was going to go check on my laundry. I walked out and took a seat on the steps while Jeb was sitting on a bench by the railing.
“Robert, I told you I wasn’t going to pry into your business and I think a man should keep his word but the misses was telling me she heard on the radio this afternoon that there was a boy named Robert Jones about you age that was a run away from Thackerville and we kind of put two and two together you see.”
I looked at Jeb just as Mrs. Cook walked out the door and sit down next to him
“Your assumptions are right sir, that was me they were talking about on the radio.” I said with my head down looking at the ground below me.
“I’m not sure what they said on the radio but please let me explain my situation before you cast judgment on me”
I told them the whole story from me walking home from school that day to stealing from the Bakers and living in the cave and “then you stopped and picked me up sir and here we are” I finished with tears in my eyes. I looked over and saw Mrs. Cook crying and Mr Cook just sat there staring off in the field.
“Robert why don’t you stay here with us tonight since its already getting dark out” Mrs. Cook said breaking the silence that had taken over.
“I couldn’t impose like that ma’am, but want to thank you and Mr. Cook for your hospitality, I greatly appreciate it but I should be on my way”
“Nonsense” Mr. Cook said as he finally looked my way.
“You should stay here tonight and then in the morning if you feel like leaving then you can go”
I thought about it for a moment and sleeping inside did sound a lot more pleasant than on the ground some where.
“If your sure I wont be a bother than I will stay sir”
Mrs. Cook confirmed that it would be no bother and then it was settled I would be staying the night.

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